So this happened the other day: 10 People. 9 Hours. 8 Stops.
I had the opportunity to host a food tour for a family of nine this past weekend… who gave me an incredible amount of flexibility to plan their weekend in the San Gabriel Valley. They caught wind of me after watching the Bizarre Foods segment on the SGV and wanted the entire shabang.
“Any restrictions, concerns or requests?” I asked during our first phone conversation.
“No. Go for it. We trust you.”
And that’s how it was like for the entire weekend. They had no qualms about spice, offal or even portion size. I ordered to my liking and they ate every single dish. They paid for the food and I supplied the background commentary and itinerary. It was fantastic.
For my Travel Channel gig, the picks were constrained by time and driving distance. For this group, I had no restrictions at all so naturally, I gave them the best of the best. It’s rare to stumble across people with no reservations about food but working with them was akin to working with a blank canvass.
Here’s a breakdown of the weekend:
The family drove up from San Diego and stayed at Days Inn Alhambra on First and Main Street. The hotel is in close proximity to quite a number of nice bars and walking distance to a dim sum joint on my itinerary.
7:00 pm: Shaanxi Gourmet
Two bowls of pao mo, two orders of liangpi, a biangbiang mian, hand-pulled lamb noodle, three-ish roujiamos, a spread of skewers, a roasted fish and beer for the table. (See: Top 10 Handmade Noodles in LA)
9:00 pm: Tasty Garden
Tasty Garden in Alhambra was on the way back for my group so we stopped in for a “light” dessert. What that composed of: a plain Hong Kong waffle, a HK waffle with mango and whipped cream and a basic brick toast with ice cream that elicited “Oohhs” and “Ahhs” around the table. (See: Best HK Waffle in LA) The wait staff seemed to be rather enamored by my group.
“Too fat,” one of the waitresses said to the head honcho of the group. He was amused, his family cracked up and a photo was taken to memorialize the moment. (See: My interview with the Tasty Garden owner)
10:00 am: Lunasia
We walked to dim sum from the hotel and were one of the first customers in the door. Strategic because the wait can stretch up to two hours on a weekend afternoon. Ordered the whole experience: har gow, shu mai, cheong fun, crystal shrimp, egg tart, snow taro buns, sesame balls, BBQ pork buns, sticky rice. And received almond bread milk at the end — compliments of the manager. (See: My top pick for dim sum)
11:00 am: Chengdu Taste
Three orders: mung bean noodles, toothpick beef and water-boiled fish. The toothpick beef was a crowd favorite and the group marveled at the tongue-numbing qualities of the fish. (My piece on Chengdu)
12:00 pm: Stinky Tofu King in Arcadia
Stinky tofu (bite-sized and regular), fatty pork over rice, ba wan. (See: One of the best stinky tofu joints in LA.) They were the most hesitant about this joint but everyone was able to stomach the tofu finely.
1:00 pm: AU 79 in Arcadia
Walked here from Tofu King. The best boba in Los Angeles — hands down. (See article on how they brew their tea leaves whole) The suggested order: green tea with boba, less sugar. But apparently, the coconut milk tea is an amazing alternative.
2:00 pm : Dai Ho Restaurant
Small batch Chinese noodles available only for 3.5 hours a day: beef noodle soup, sesame noodles, spicy sesame noodles, pork noodles. (See: Dai Ho Feature)
Want your own customized food tour? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.